Category Archives: Food (makes life worth living)

“Winter is coming”

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Over the past week I hauled home, sans vehicle, 16 28oz cans of Furmano’s tomatoes which means I now have a stash of 26. I take my tomatoes seriously. Besides, they’re on sale for $1. I used to buy the “Chunky Crushed” but somewhere along the way added ingredients included Calcium Chloride, Citric Acid and Xanthan Gum, and that’s a few too many additives for my pleasure. The “Crushed” variety, although thinner consistency 😢, merely has Citric Acid. Delicious Citric Acid! (I’m kind of kidding. Citric Acid is common and generally considered safe.) While I’m on it, “Diced” contain Calcium Chloride and Citric Acid but I rinse those before using. I stopped buying ready-made, jarred pasta sauces (too much salt & sugar) long ago and canned became my go-to. Furmano’s is tasty and regularly drops to $1 a can, so I stick mainly with them.

I guess I should mention I’ve never canned my own tomatoes and have no interest in starting. The memories of my mother spending days in the kitchen in hot, steamy summers working that scary pressure cooker remain strong. She’d be in a pretty foul mood and the whole enterprise appeared messy and chaotic. Also, um, the results, served up in future family dinners? They were not good, at least to my child self.😒

In the past I’ve made my own sauce from fresh tomatoes (which could be frozen instead of canned) but I really can’t get behind the reality that it takes 20 tomatoes or therabouts, to produce a measly cup of sauce. I don’t care for them odds. Don’t get me started on having to buy tomato paste in order not to have thin, watery sauce…

Two winters ago I shared my tomato stash which looked like this. I have (more) time on my hands in winter to do things like arrange my tomato cans into a pyramid for the purposes of this blog clearly.😁

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If you think one thin, middle-aged woman could not eat all that, you’d be wrong, friends! (She did & then some.)

What led to this post other than the 16-can-purchase was finding the wood shelves they’re pictured on, curbside yesterday. I wasn’t sure what I’d do with them but since they were solidly built & real wood (not pressed board crap) I figured I should just grab them. They were a perfect fit for a spot in the kitchen and after I’d lined up the tomato cans and admired them the words “Winter is coming” sprang to mind. And so it is. But by god I’ll have 🍅.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next veggie stop: outside on the sidewalk?

In late 2017 I posted photos of *expired” marked down produce the small, local grocery store sells. It’s not unusual to see rotting vegetables or even mold; the addition of a SALES ARE FINAL NO RETURNS OR MONEY BACK sign particularly amused me. Here’s the original photos.

Recently the store stopped refrigerating said old produce. That’s right – why waste valuable cold storage on festering vegetables?! Now they reside in a cardboard display outside the cold bins. One of the main items is bagged lettuce – as IF bagged produce didn’t already have enough issues what with the various recalls and E. Coli outbreaks.😕
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Don’t look too closely

I have a few kitchen appliances but not a lot by most standards. I like to do – or at least think it’s probably a good idea to do – many tasks by hand, both for the exercise and because it makes me feel more connected to the food. (I’ve mixed and kneaded hundreds of pizza doughs, for example, and the process feels important and satifying). There are kitchen chores though, that aren’t possible without the help of an appliance, like a blender, which of course I have. To save space & money, I bought a food processor attachment for my Oster blender four years ago for $17. Thanks to it I could make fake icecream and things like hummus. I got good use from it.

In the winter the plastic base of the food processor attachment broke. I decided to try gluing it.

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The glued base

That worked for awhile but several times lately, rather than grind in its normal, high-decibel fashion, the food processor attachment, apparently not seated correctly due to the repair job, has made a HORRIBLE sound when I’ve turned it on, not unlike that bad grinding, scraping noise when a car shifts incorrectly. This sound is so alarming I’ve become frightened to use the attachment, even though hurriedly turning the machine off and trying to “reseat” the attachment tends to take care of the problem. I just don’t think my nerves can take it!😦

So, I looked at Amazon. NOW Amazon wants an outrageous $50 for a new one and $34 for a used-like-new one. And it’s thin plastic! And not even high end caliber! $50?! Instead, I looked at other possibilities, keeping cost and “footprint” in mind, as well as ratings. This led me to a small, 4-cup Cuisinart food processor. I can assure you I’ve never owned a Cuisinart anything. Around my kitchen, in addition to Oster, the brand names tend toward Black & Decker, Hamilton Beach, etcetera. Serviceable, unfancy wares. The reason I purchased the little Cuisinart (for under $20) was because it is refurbished through a program called Amazon Renewed. Basically, a supplier fixes up used appliances and they re-sell them (I bought a refurbished Sony CD/cassette player from Amazon in 2017 and its been fine).

Here’s what caught my eye today in the description of Amazon’s refurbished goods:

The products will have minimal to no signs of wear and no visible cosmetic imperfections when held 12 inches away.

12″ huh? I bet they’re just dreamy from oh, 8 feet away. What they’re really saying here is:

You’ll like it better if you don’t look at it too closely.

Are those words to live by or what? As someone who very routinely looks at everything closely, I can see how I’d be well-advised to apply this philosophy to more of my life, not just used kitchen appliances!

What Does Colette Eat?

This post might seem a little strange, coming out of left field, but what the hell. Food is very, very important to me. I am one of those people that definitely lives to eat. You might not think it to look at me because I stay fit and lean but if you knew me in real life and asked, “Are you hungry?” or “Do you want to eat?” at any given point of the day, the answer is usually “YES.” (It’s a safe bet.)

I won’t say I hoard food so much as stockpile.  I think of hoarders as people who have no clue what they have and who won’t ever get to all of it (i.e., if it’s food, a lot of it will expire or go bad) – that is not me.  I eat what I buy, keep track of expirations, write the date on foods in the freezer and so on. I do tend to deliberately load up on  supplies pre-winter because I like the comfort of knowing that even if there’s a 3-foot snow storm and I can’t get anywhere, I’ll still have food to eat. And even shy of that, since I don’t have a car, I just like knowing that I have stuff, and won’t necessarily have to trudge out in the sub-freezing temps or ride the bus to get groceries (which I seem to be doing like clockwork anyway, but…).

Last year I was what I considered a bit indulgent in my grocery shopping. I treated myself to foods I wouldn’t otherwise buy. It was nice and I enjoyed it. I did also keep track of what I spent on food and come the end of the year, it was about $2,200. As a lump sum, that kind of jumped out at me. I had no sense if that’s about par or what (anytime I’ve seen food cost charts, they usually are calculated for a “family of four” or something). Anyway, I decided I’d like to bring that figure back down this year, more in line with previous years.

These thoughts about cost are somewhat extraneous so far as this post – the post is just a list of the foods I have on hand right now. I thought it would be helpful to me to make it and it was.  I don’t know if it’ll be helpful to anyone else but maybe it might. (I like to know what other people eat and to get new ideas, especially from people who are fit and health-conscious.) I don’t follow any “diet” that has a name but I try to eat well and I really, really enjoy food.

FREEZER

2018 Farmers market Yams = 3 jars

2018 Farmers market Turnips = 2 small bags

2018 Farmers Market Butternut Squash = 2 small bags

Mixed Berries = ½ bag, about 1.5lbs

Blueberries = 3lb bag

Strawberries = 2 or 3lbs

Blackberries = ½ bag, about 1.5lbs

Red & Green Peppers = 2 1lb bags

Okra = 1 old bag

Spinach = ½ 1lb bag

Peas = 2 1lb bags

Green Beans = 1 1lb bag

Homemade Refried Beans = 3 small jars

Whole Wheat bread = 1 open bag, 1 unopened bag

Whole Wheat Pita Bread = 1 open bag, 1 unopened 12oz bag

Homemade Whole Wheat Tortillas = 4 small bags

Homemade Pasta  dish = 7 portions

Homemade Egg Sandwiches = 4

Homemade Spinach & Artichoke Heart Quiche = 2 portions

Homemade Pie = 2 slices

Homemade healthy cookies = 6 small bags

Mozzarella Cheese Sticks = 34 1oz sticks

Colby & Montery Jack cheese = 14 1oz cubes

Feta = half a jar

Cheddar Slices = 3

Brown Rice = 1 5lb bag

Wild Rice = 1lb

Arborio Rice = little left in container

White Rice = 1lb

Whole Wheat Flour = 3.5 5lb bags

White Flour = 1 5lb bag

Walnuts = 2 16oz bags plus small 4oz bag

Brown Sesame Seeds = 2 1lb bags

Almonds = 2.5lbs

Raw Sunflower seeds = a lot

Pitted Dates = a lot

Homemade Soup = 3 jars

 

CANS

Green Beans = 4

Peas = 1

Corn = 4

Pickles = 1

Salmon = 6 15oz cans

Tuna = 10 cans

Crushed Tomatoes = 8 28oz cans

Diced Tomatoes = 11 28oz cans

Whole Peeled Tomatoes = 2 28oz cans

Evaporated Milk = 1 can

Pineapple = 2 24oz cans

Peaches = 2 15oz cans

Pears = 2 15oz cans

Tomato Paste – 2 6oz cans

 

PANTRY FOODS

Panko Bread crumbs = ½ box

Peanuts = 5 jars

Date Paste = 1 2lb bag

Raisins = ½ carton

Brown Sugar = 1 peanut jar full

White Sugar = ½ 4lb bag (plenty)

Cocoa Powder = about 34oz (1 23oz unopened container plus 2 open containers)

Dark Chocolate Chips = 1 open bag, 1 unopened bag

Unsweetened Coconut = 1 10oz bag

Taco Shells = 2 boxes

Tofu = 12 boxes (Amazon sells it by the 12-pack)

Pumpkin = 2 boxes

Boxed Milk = 2qt boxes

Dry Milk = 2 envelopes plus 2 unopened boxes

Baking powder

Baking Soda

 

 

PASTA & NOODLES

Rotini = 1.5lbs

Penne = 3 1lb boxes

Farfalle = 3 1lb boxes

Orzo = 1 1lb box

Linguine = 3.5 lbs

Angel Hair Spaghetti = 2.5lbs

Spaghetti = 4lbs

Whole Wheat Spaghetti = 1 open box (not excited about this)

Rice Noodles = little bit left

Long Udon noodles = ½ bag

Whole Wheat Egg noodles = 12oz bag (ok, I might not eat this😐)

 

BEANS & GRAINS

Red Kidney = 1 1lb bag dried

Pinto = 1.5lbs dried

Lentils = 2 1lb bags

Great Northern = 2 1lb bags dried

Chick Peas = 4 1lb bags dried

Black Beans = 3 1lb bags dried

Old Fashioned Oats = 1 open 42oz box, 1 unopened 42oz box

1 Minute Oats = 1 open 42oz box, 1 unopened 42oz box

Oat Bran = 1 18oz bag

Bob’s Red Mill Five Grain Hot Cereal = 1 16oz bag

Bob’s Seven Grain Hot Cereal = ½ 1lb bag

White Cornmeal = most of a bag

Chia Seeds = 1 bag

Wheat Bran = 1 8oz bag

Barley = 2 open bags (oops)

Popcorn = 3 2lb bags unpopped

 

OILS, VINEGARS, CONDIMENTS, ETC

Canola Oil = 4 48oz bottles

Sesame Oil = 1 16oz bottle

Coconut Oil = little bit

Extra Virgin Olive Oil = about 95oz (I REALLY like olive oil 😊)

Balsamic Vinegar = 1 open bottle

Red Wine Vinegar = 1 open bottle

Rice Vinegar = 1 open bottle, 2 unopen

Liquid Aminos = 1 open bottle

Lemon Juice

Lime Juice

Blackstrap Molasses = 1 16oz bottle

Molasses = 1 11oz bottle

Honey = 1 24oz jar

Tabasco sauce = 2 2oz bottles

Garlic = 1 open jar

Peanut Butter (no salt, no sugar) = 1 open jar

Peanut Butter Powder = a lot

Nutritional Yeast

Yeast = a lot

Pure Vanilla = 2 2oz jars

Mustard = 1 12oz bottle

Catsup, no sugar added  = 1 open bottle

Pesto = 2 jars

Marinated Artichoke Hearts – 1 large jar

Capers = 2 2oz jars

Peppercorns = 2 2oz jars

Kalamata Olives = 1 open jar

Green olives = 2 open jars, 4 unopened

 

FRESH FRUITS & VEGETABLES

Onions

Kiwis

Bananas

Cabbage

Lettuce

Oranges

Broccoli

Green Onions

Red Onion

Carrots

Although I have canned salmon & tuna, you may have noticed the absence of any meats, chops, chicken etc. I am a mostly vegetarian. I’m not hard core but rarely buy meat or poultry. I don’t buy frozen dinners or much that’s ready-made.  What’s missing and I need to buy are:

Non-fat, Plain Yogurt

Raisins (why has the price jumped so much lately?!)

Salsa

Flax seed

Black Olives

Black-eye Peas

Frozen fish fillets

Potatoes, any kind

 

 

 

 

 

Easy Thai-inspired Cole Slaw

In my “resolutions” for the year I expressed an interest in trying Thai cooking. I don’t really know what Thai cooking is except that it may involve cilantro, peanuts, and lime juice and if so, I’m all on board! I got interested after trying this recipe last year. I made a few changes and wanted to share it with you. I substituted Liquid Aminos for soy sauce because liquid aminos have less sodium and more nutritional properties. The original recipe used fresh green beans but here I used a half bag of frozen peas & carrots because that’s what I had in the freezer.

The ingredients are cabbage, peanuts, liquid aminos (or soy sauce), half a cup of some kind of vegetable, green onions, and lime juice. This recipe takes what I consider a little trouble. I don’t typically have cilantro or green onions on hand so I have to make a point of getting them. I don’t usually have cabbage either but I’m not trying to suggest buying cabbage is exotic. (To keep cilantro longer, I take it out of the flimsy plastic produce bag and put the roots in water, cover it loosely with the plastic bag, and keep it in the refrigerator.)

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The original recipe used raw, shredded cabbage but I bought this small head of cabbage without any kind of wrapper on it so I decided, after removing the outermost tough leaves, to chop it up and cook it in a little bit of oil just to be on the safe side.

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I have a wonderful little (out of focus) Tupperware manual chopper that I found at a yard sale long ago that worked perfectly to chop up a quarter cup of peanuts.

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For whatever reason I’d never taken the time to roast any nuts (lazy I guess) but cooking them for a few minutes in the toaster oven really does bring out wonderful flavor. The roasted result is on the right.

I LOVE cilantro so I used plenty. Here it’s washed and spun in my salad spinner on the right before adding to the cabbage and peas & carrots in a large bowl.

 

The easiest way to chop up green onions (organic scallions in this case) is with a pair of clean, kitchen scissors. I just cut them right into the bowl but put ’em on the cutting board first to show you. I used three.IMG_20190216_183348_kindlephoto-46623146

Here’s the onions and roasted peanuts added to the bowl.

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All stirred together with splashes of lime juice and amino acids. I suggest going with light amounts initially and adding more if you think it’s needed.IMG_20190216_183700_kindlephoto-46724249

I put a serving into a pretty bowl to take a picture for the blog but the truth is I just ate my wonderful Thai Cole slaw directly out of the big bowl above. This made several servings and it keeps well over several days in the refrigerator.  I love this cole slaw. So good!IMG_20190216_183913_kindlephoto-46794402

 

Short Thought 224 (Downtown Abbey/image)

I’ve been re-watching the Downtown Abbey series, partly in anticipation of the movie in 2019. I remember reading in Esquire that what you thought of it depended on whether you saw yourself as servant or served. There was little doubt in my mind had I been there I’d have been among those cooking, cleaning, and serving.😐 Still, I muse now that if all it took to get treated to a delicious breakfast, lunch, or dinner – which I could end by placing my cutlery and serviette on the table and wandering off leaving others to clean up – was to deck myself out in a fancy gown, gloves, jewels and tidy hairdo, well, I think I could manage that.

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Fond garden memories from childhood. Um, not really.

You know how you always read heartwarming stories of people’s memories of their mother’s or grandmother’s gardens? About those carefree, neverending days of summer when they ate fresh, crisp green beans off the vine or nibbled on just-picked strawberries? How they helped their mother or grandmother and were rewarded for their efforts with fresh treats? Well, my mother had a garden but I didn’t do any of that. I thought everything that came out of my mother’s garden was disgusting. She didn’t trust her younger children such as me to participate in the vegetable garden either, relegating them to lesser, joyless yard tasks like digging plantain leaf and dandelions out of the lawn or collecting gumballs by the hundreds. Heart-warming no?

I always remembered my mother having a vegetable garden and I always remember her complaining about it. The terrible soil, the hard work, the marauding birds & squirrels, and so on. Gardening was not about pleasure. Most of the produce was subsequently canned (an arduous process my mother undertook each year in a hot kitchen) and eventually served limp and waterlogged with little or no seasoning. I’ll grant you I was a child and children aren’t typically known for their love of vegetables, but the way they were cooked sure didn’t help.

When one of us kids complained about  the taste of the vegetables at the dinner table my mother would invariably, defensively respond,

“That came from our garden!”

“It came from our garden” was supposed to be a conversation-ender, as if everything from the garden was above reproach.  Even the family salad, which, by the time it got to you at the table of many, was bitter leaves floating in the heavy-on-the-vinegar dressing at the bottom of the mud brown, chipped, ceramic bowl. Which you had to take.

I would be an adult, one who ate in restaurants and learned to cook, before I could appreciate vegetables, fresh ones in particular. The childhood associations had to wear off first and then I could find out for myself what vegetables were actually supposed to taste like. I simply didn’t know how good they go be. Other people helped. I didn’t know what a green pepper could taste like till a woman I knew offered me some from her garden when I was in my late twenties. I was reluctant, based on the lip-curling memory of the taste of uncooked peppers (why that one was served without the usual overcooking I couldn’t say), when she assured me that I should try it cooked as it became “a different vegetable.” It was true. Proper cooking took the edge off the pungent raw green pepper taste.

Over the years I tried more and more vegetables and was often surprised. Of course, a number of these were never served at our family dinner table, certainly nothing too exotic. I tried okra for the first time about five years ago. Wow! I loved okra. Who knew?

My mother considered me a “picky eater” and it took many years of eating foods not cooked or served by my mother (vegetables may have been a low point but it’s not like the rest of the cuisine was delicious) to discover I was, if not the opposite, definitely not picky. There was a world of food and vegetables to discover and I now consider them one of life’s true joys.  I’ve never lived anywhere I could have my own full-blown vegetable garden, but I am delighted by the small amount of food gardening I’ve been able to do. There’s such pride in growing things, food especially.

Vegetables, mostly from the store, have made regular appearances in this blog’s four+ years. Here’s a few.IMG_20180619_125250

 

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NOTE: I’m back to sketchy internet access; please forgive any delay in responding to comments.